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Palestinians seek US$2.8b to repair Gaza

THE Palestinian government will ask the international community to donate US$2.8 billion to rebuild Gaza after Israel's devastating military offensive there, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said yesterday, warning that the money wouldn't do any good unless Gaza's borders reopened.

The territory has been cut off from the world since the Islamic militant Hamas seized control by force in June 2007, and reconstruction would require a massive influx of building materials and other supplies.

Hamas would have to team up with its rival, Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to end Gaza's isolation and be given a role in internationally funded reconstruction.

Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement, which controls the West Bank, began reconciliation talks on Tuesday.

On Monday, high-level representatives from some 80 donor countries are to gather in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik for a Gaza pledging conference.

The United States is expected to give about US$900 million, and Saudi Arabia has said in the past that it is ready to donate about US$1 billion.

Abbas' prime minister, Fayyad, told a West Bank news conference yesterday that he would ask for US$2.8 billion. "We have concluded a comprehensive reconstruction plan that includes all that is required for reconstruction and activating the economy," Fayyad said.

"From positive talks with the donors, I expect the donations to exceed the required figures," he said.

Also yesterday, militants launched two rockets at southern Israel and Israeli planes retaliated by attacking tunnels in Gaza that could be used to smuggle weapons.

No injuries were reported in either the rocket attacks or the air strike.


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